February 8, 2013

Greg Boyd Finding an Anabaptist Home

(Credit: Crossroads.net)

(Credit: Crossroads.net)

Either the Mennonite Church USA or the Brethren in Christ will soon receive an influx of about 2,500 members. Greg Boyd, co-founder and pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota is seeking a denominational home for his congregation. According to Mennonite World Review, Boyd and his church began a “yearlong commitment to exploring Anabaptism in May,” and will make a decision once “they’ve run out of questions” for the two denominations.

Once considered within the evangelical mainstream, Boyd created controversy in 2004 with a sermon series called “The Cross and the Sword,” which was then featured in a 2006 New York Times Op-ed,“Disowning Conservative Politics, Evangelical Pastor Rattles Flock.” The article reported that Boyd preached the “Church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a ‘Christian nation’ and stop glorifying American military campaigns.”

In the immediate aftermath, a fifth of Woodland’s 5,000 members reportedly left the church, unsettled by Boyd’s apparent abandonment and disparagement of their convictions. That shift, according to Boyd, “got me on the radar screen of Mennonites, and they started inviting me to come and speak to them.” Explaining his transition, Boyd said: “The clearer I got on the kingdom of God … the more problems I had with American evangelicalism.” Following the sermon series, Boyd wrote The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church. In the ensuing years, the pastor and remaining congregants have found a home in the pacifist neo-Anabaptist community.

The megachurch pastor previously stirred controversy in 2000 with his book, God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God. In this work, Boyd defended “Open Theism,” which he defines as “the view that God chose to create a world that included free agents, and thus a world where possibilities are real. The future is pre-settled, to whatever degree God wants to pre-settle it and to whatever degree the inevitable consequences of the choices of created agents have pre-settled it. But the future is also open to whatever degree agents are free to resolve possibilities into actualities by their own choices.”

Theologians including John Piper and Albert Mohler responded to Boyd, pointing out his dramatic departure from the mainstream of orthodox Evangelical theology. Mohler warned: “Most importantly, open theists argue that God cannot know what free creatures will choose or do in the future,” and “The doctrine of God is the central organizing principal (sic) of Christian theology … a shift in the doctrine of God–much less of this consequence–necessarily implies shifts and transformations in all other doctrines.”

Boyd, who has degrees from Yale and Princeton, is the author of multiple books, including The Myth of the Christian Religion: Losing Your Life for the Beauty of a Revolution and taught theology at Bethel University for 16 years.

Perhaps the greatest hurdle for Woodland Hills will be combining its evangelical megachurch culture with the simpler way of the Anabaptists. Boyd told the Mennonite World Report: “Woodland Hills brings a very kind of non-Mennonite culture … I’ve been told that just the way I carry myself isn’t very Mennonite.”

6 Responses to Greg Boyd Finding an Anabaptist Home

  1. My question to him would be: why do you need a denomination at all? Why not just declare yourself (meaning the church) independent?

    In some aspects, I agree with him. Christianity is NOT about Republicanism or Americanism. It is supposed to be about Jesus Christ. The evangelical movement is making a huge mistake with its being wedded to politics.

  2. Dan H says:

    I notice a lot of people making the accusation of evangelicals being wedded to politics. No one ever defines what that means. Coming from a liberal, it usually is a slur that translates as “Christians should be politically involved, but only if they vote Democratic.” When the accusation comes from a self-identified evangelical, I wonder do they mean the same thing. If being “wedded to politics” means “trying to influence the culture in a positive way,” what is wrong with that? “Let your light so shine before men,” etc. If various sexual minorities try to push the country in the wrong direction, what is wrong with Christians pushing back? Last time I checked, we are still citizens with rights (and obligations). If the country is going to hell in a handbasket, I don’t want it on my conscience that I stood by and said “I don’t want to soil my lily white hands in the much of politics.” I’m not Amish and I’m not a monk. I live in the world and would like to see it better, not worse, for my having passed through.

    • You are right, I need to clarify. It is a huge mistake for evangelicals to be wedded to any specific political party, like Republican or Democrat. I absolutely believe in influencing society and culture. But to identify with a particular political party is a mistake. In my experience, both major parties (and some minor ones) use the affiliation of church groups to further their own agendas, which may not be in harmony with the church’s. We have to be smarter and wiser than we are.

      I agree with you – the “hands off because it is dirty” approach of the past failed. We do need to get our hands dirty. Christians need to run for office themselves, and not rely on the political mechanisms. Christians need to become stockholders of major companies, and raise issues at shareholder meetings. Christians need to be involved in every area of life, actively. But identifying the church with a political party (unless we start our own) I think is a mistake.

  3. Walt says:

    Being very bright, an intellectual, can be a curse. Especially for the young who desire to be recognized and honored. I think many have started cults to exalt themselves. Not saying this man is doing that, exactly, but just looks the same. Once you lessen your attention to the world of God, Satan steps in and begins to move you away from God. That may be what is happening. Although I admire Amish and there simple life style.

    • Greg P says:

      Have you read any of Boyd’s books? “Intellectual” is not the first word that comes to mind, unless you stick a “pseudo” in front of it.

  4. […] Two men, Greg Boyd Pastor at Woodland Hills Church of St. Paul Minnesota and Bruxy Cavey of The Meetinghouse Be In Christ(formerly named Brethren In Christ) church in Canada, are two of the main influencers when it comes to Open Theism in the BIC.  We will start by examining Boyd’s influence a bit.  This Article from 2013 talks about how Greg Boyd is thinking of joining the BIC.  As I recall around this time Alan Robinson also informed us that this was a possibility.  He publically told us this, at, at least one regional conference and at our last General Conference. He seemed encouraged that a mega church pastor of Boyd’s influence would want to join us:  https://juicyecumenism.com/2013/02/08/greg-boyd-finding-an-anabaptist-home/ […]

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